Having an exotic pet can be very satisfying but it is definitely not without its risks. As a responsible pet owner, you have an obligation to not only your family’s safety, but the safety of the pet and the community as well. One of the first steps to successful exotic pet ownership is knowledge; knowing what the temperament and habits of your exotic can help you take the necessary precautions to keep everyone out of harms way.
First: handling your exotic pet. Some of the exotics are easier to tame and handle than others. If yours is truly not amenable to being touched or carried, then you must respect that. The only way for the animal to communicate this is sometimes with a painful bite; so if your pet is struggling and trying desperately to get away, do not pick him up! Remember, some exotic pets may be more dangerous than others, as some are poisonous or harbor dangerous germs that can make you very ill. Exotics can also be very unpredictable, so there may not be any actual warning signs given before a strike. Be especially cautious when allowing younger children to handle your exotics, a child may inadvertently squeeze or scare your pet, or may panic and release him.
Be sure that your exotic pet’s cage is escape proof. There is nothing worse than trying to recapture a creepy crawly or a slimy slitherer – snakes just do not come when called! Rats and other rodent exotics are very adept at escape, and can be very destructive when out of their own habitat, so careful monitoring of their cage is necessary. One very smart hamster managed to pull a neighboring curtain through the bars of his cage and then use the material to shimmy to the top of the cage, and out the top, never to be seen again. Watch for any signs of escape and thwart the attempt!
Always make sure that handling is done when everyone is calm and focused. A brief interaction in the evening is fine, holding the pet mouse during a child’s birthday party is not. Again, monitor the pet and the pet holder for the first sign of problems and end the interaction immediately. Do not allow the pet to be taken out of its cage or habitat if there is someone who professes they afraid of your pet. Terrence the tarantula should not be invited out of his home if Aunt Tilly has arachnophobia! Wait until Auntie goes home to play with the big hairy spider.
Finally, after you are done handling your exotic, make sure that you and your children thoroughly wash your hands. No matter how you feel about your pet, they can harbor germs in their fur or on their skin. Do not allow anyone to eat while handling an exotic pet, and make sure that your exotic does not get any human food- some items can be highly toxic for some species.